NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fantasy Friday: The lasts in the Land of Oz … and picks

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Kansas this week and the visit there doesn’t come without some lasts in mind. Kansas was the last place that Hendrick Motorsports won a race. The elite team is also looking for its 200th Sprint Cup victory, so hey, maybe it’s a match made in the Land of Oz.

Another last is that this will be the final race their before the track is repaved. It’s one of a number of tracks that has been on the repaving list in the last year. So, when they return for the Chase for the Championship in the fall, the cars will likely handle differently, leaving crew chiefs to rely on their adjustability rather than just previous notes.

Top 5 Picks

Greg Biffle: The points leader is coming off a win at Texas, has been excellent all year–including finishing inside the top 15 in all seven races this season–and he has two wins at the track. And that definitely makes it nearly impossible not to include him.

Jeff Gordon: He’s been fast all year, but also extremely unlucky. They finally had a bit of good fortune, to go along with a fast car, and finished fourth at Texas last week. Gordon is 17th in the points coming in, and with two wins and nine top-10 finishes at Kansas, he’ll look to make a big jump in the standings.

Jimmie Johnson: He’s also got two wins at Kansas and has been knocking on the victory door for the last few races. So a breakthrough here would be no surprise and give Hendrick that landmark victory.

Tony Stewart: Like Biffle, Gordon and Johnson, he’s got two victories at Kansas. Plus, I’m guessing that last week’s poor showing at Texas was anamoly, and won’t be a regular occurrence.

Mark Martin: He’s showing he can still drive with the best of them, even at age 53. Martin is driving the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing and has been solid this season. He’s also got a win at Kansas.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda: Kansas is also Clint Bowyer’s home track and it would be a great story for him to get his first win at the facility. He’s been OK there with a lone top 5 and three top-10 finishes in seven starts at the mile-and-a-half oval. That’s not enough to make him one of the top five here.

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP

Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared at Texas.

Matt Kenseth – 5th. He was competitive throughout the night and led 15 laps, even though he didn’t have a chance to win at the end.

Greg Biffle – 1st. Well, finally I got another winner here. Biffle went from having a good season, to being a serious contender for the title by proving he can win on one of the Chase tracks.

Tony Stewart – 24th. It was a no-brainer to pick Stewart as one of the contenders at Texas. But the team missed completely on the set up and was never in the running to even get a top-15 finish.

Denny Hamlin – 12th. He had an OK day, but was never a threat to win the race.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 10th. See comment for Hamlin. Winless now at 136 for those of you snoring at home.

Here’s a look at my results after seven races and 35 picks
2 win
8 top fives
7 top 10s

Grade for the week: B. Biffle’s win is big and Kenseth came through, too. Stewart’s non-competitive car came as no help though.

One Last Thing: Here’s a look at what Jimmie Johnson has done this season, thanks to help from NASCAR’s Loop Statistics. The five-time champion has the most fastest laps run at 249, the fastest average green flag speed, led the most laps at 359, led the most miles at 403.89 and the fastest average speed in traffic. There’s one thing he hasn’t done yet this year – win. That may very well change Sunday.
Until next time

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